As X of Swords begins, the eighth collected edition of the Dawn of X era comes out to continue the anthology-style trade paperbacks we’ve been getting. These collections are legitimately fantastic, even if an individual one’s contents may not be incredible. Just the precedent of collecting books in reading order from the very beginning and not only having separate collections in separate series is a significant improvement over previous trends. Okay, my gushing aside, let’s get into the actual contents of this collection.
This is the grief issue. It’s the issue where the rest of the cast finds out that Kate Pryde, someone they all carry strong affection for, was killed. It’s an emotional issue, and one that lands really well even by itself. Duggan’s writing and Caselli’s art do a fantastic job making the emotions incredibly clear on the page. I also really appreciate how this collection is able to nail the feeling of reading these books as they came out — there’s a whole host of content that came out between the last two issues of Marauders, but each issue still hits emotionally.
This coming immediately after the Marauders find Kate’s body is a powerful effect, because this portion opens on a scene of the Marauders being brainwashed and Bishop being dragged underwater by what appears to be Kate’s corpse. This is a followup to the story about the evil plant lady who’s brainwashing people, obviously, but this specific story placement makes it work a lot better than opening on some generic scene of mutants being brainwashed.
That being said, this arc as a whole really doesn’t work for me. It feels the most like a story that could have happened without Krakoa — someone brainwashed Wolverine into killing all of X-Force, is brainwashing other mutants, and Logan has to stop them and also feel bad about something he literally had no control over. I know Percy can do better than this, and this story feels like a waste of Adam Kubert’s art. There’s some really good character writing and some really funny moments, but the overall plot just feels lackluster.
Speaking of Percy being able to do better, X-Force is also written by him, with art by Jan Bazaldua. These two issues rule. They focus on Domino trying to figure out why her luck powers don’t seem to be working, and serve both as an awesome action-packed two-parter as well as a compelling character piece. The ending is especially powerful, because it creates such an interesting dynamic for Domino and Colossus in the future. Bazaldua’s art adds a level of dynamism to this story that fits incredibly well, and makes the whole issue a joy to read.
Giant-Size X-Men: Jean Grey and Emma Frost #1
This is the first Giant-Size issue of five, and it sets up a story that won’t be followed in all of the issues but does get wrapped up in the last one. But as a standalone issue, this is really just Russell Dauterman riffing on Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s psychic rescue issue of New X-Men. It’s technically good, and Dauterman puts out some of his best work on this issue, but I just can’t help but feel like it didn’t do anything really new. The last page is the most important one, honestly. This story does eventually have a great payoff in later Giant-Size X-Men issues, but as a standalone product it just doesn’t do enough.
This is another volume that’s around 50/50 in terms of its contents. Marauders and X-Force are really good, but Wolverine and Giant-Size end up not being as good as they should be, giving great moments without strong connective tissue. Once again, it’s definitely worth the purchase for people who want to continue following Dawn of X, but if you plan on starting with this one I don’t know what to tell you — this is volume 8 for a reason.